My interest in oddities now extends to military matters and a few interesting stories.
One date in history which readily springs to mind is 1066, that momentous year which changed the face of our country. Indeed it was a momentous year for Saxon King Harold – he who was supposedly shot by an arrow in the eye at the Battle of Hastings. What is not so well remembered is
that Harold had marched his troops some 250 miles from Stamford Bridge near York after defeating the Norwegians there, to engage the Normans in his final battle.
The Swordsman Inn, situated alongside the bridge over the River Derwent at Stamford Bridge, reminds us of a heroic event which turned the battle of 1066 in Harold’s favour. It was vital that Harold’s troops should cross the river but the only way across was by way of a narrow wooden bridge which was blocked by a huge Norwegian warrior who managed to slay all the soldiers who tried to dislodge him. Apparently the day was saved by a brave young soldier who floated under the bridge in a tub and managed to stab the warrior through a gap in the wooden bridge. Thus the way was clear and the victorious Saxon army stormed across.
Until 1878, a Spear Pie Festival was held annually in the village with the traditional pie being boat shaped and filled with pears. The festival was temporarily revived in 1966 to commemorate the 900th anniversary of the battle, but is alas now only a memory.
It wasn’t so long before William the Conquerer decided that it was time to deal with the northerner’s who were still resisting his rule and it was in 1069 that William was passing through Bilsdale, a delightful part of North York Moors which now carries the B1257 road between Helmsley and Cleveland. Chroniclers tell us that ‘During the harrowing of the north in 1069, William passed through this wild region and made his way amid cold and ice of winter. He kep hissen warm wi sweering.’ King Billy. as he was known. was noted for bad language which gives rise to a local saying, ‘Swearing like Billy Norman , or swearing like Billyo.’ It is also said that Bilsdale was named after him.